ANALYSIS / Settlement Attack Plays Into New Government's Hands

Most concerned with killing of youth are Fatah, who fear it would be excuse to abandon peace process.

Some described the murder of the youth at the Bat Ayin settlement on Thursday as the way Palestinian terrorists had for welcoming the Netanyahu government. This was not a message that left the residents of the Muqata in Ramallah calm.

Not only did the attack ruin the marred welcome for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman by the international community, but it reminded them of days past with incoming right-wing governments, who transformed such events into Defensive Shields against diplomatic talks and as excuses for setting up more settlements.

Indeed, at the ceremony in which Lieberman took over as Foreign Minister, he suggested that the new government will fall back on old formulas. First "we will eradicate the terrorist infrastructure" - and then, only God knows.

Lieberman's demand that the Palestinian Authority do away with Hamas in the Gaza Strip - a task which the mighty IDF has not met - undermines his declared "commitment" to the road map for peace.

The road map and the Annapolis Declaration, which enjoyed the respective approval of the Sharon government (which Lieberman was part of), and the Olmert government, specify that the solution will be based on two states.

The 14 points of dispute that were added to the road map in 2003 have retained the following important point as is: "The Israeli leadership issues an unequivocal declaration, which confirms its commitment to the vision of the two states." However, the relevant question is not the implications of the support Lieberman and Netanyahu have for the road map or Annapolis, but whether Israel is reverting to conditioning the negotiations for a final status agreement on eradicating terrorism).

Yitzhak Rabin adopted the approach of "dealing with terrorism as if there is no peace process and continuing along for peace as if there is no terror."

The Sharon government insisted on following a linear approach - no negotiations under fire. The Olmert government, following the failure of the unilateral approach, adopted Rabin's approach and agreed to parallel progress.

The international community, headed by the U.S., welcomed this change. Will the Netanyahu government revert to the terror approach? Presumably the Quartet will not be apathetic to this reversal.

In its decision to adopt the road map, the government of Israel agreed - during the first stage - "to immediately dismantle outposts set up since March 2001 in line with the Mitchell Report," and to "freeze all settlement activities," except for those relating to natural growth in settlements.

During the Olmert-Barak government, at least 4,560 new housing units were built, of which 560 were in the outposts, and tenders went out for the construction of 1,523 more housing units. This in addition to construction tenders for 2,437 housing units in East Jerusalem, compared to 2,092 during the three earlier years ( based on data from the Central Statistics Bureau and the Government Advertising Bureau).

It is doubtful whether arguments claiming that "the other side was also disruptive" will convince Barack Obama to ignore the continued settlement construction and not removing the outposts. It will be particularly difficult because unlike the previous government, the new one did not shield the occupation with words of peace.